(And one way it’s the same)
So the marriage equality debate has risen again here in Australia, and it looks like it may finally be the time that our Parliament catches up with the majority of people and changes the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.
There’s been a rush from both sides to assert their positions and make their arguments, and I wanted to do the same. I wanted to write a post on how my love is no different from anyone else’s, because one of the major arguments from those who are against marriage equality is that our love is fundamentally different and therefore not worthy of the term ‘marriage’.
When I got to thinking about it though, I realised that my relationship with my wife (still non-legal though we hope that changes soon enough) is different from a heterosexual relationship/marriage. Here, then, are five points of difference:
- Terminology – currently, I call my wife my wife because that’s what she is to me. It’s a non-legal term, and most of our friends and family refer to her as my wife. I have, however, on various occasions been referred to as my wife’s ‘mate’, her ‘partner’, her ‘friend’ and sometimes not at all. In those cases, I was introduced in name only with no hint to my relationship with her, even though it was plainly clear to most people what our relationship to each other is. I have never, at any stage, heard my heterosexual friends have their better halves (married or not) referred to as mate, or friend, or not at all, even when they had only been together a short time.
- Sexual innuendos and questions – Let me ask you this. When you (if you are in a heterosexual relationship) have gone out with your wife or girlfriend, have you ever been asked who is the top? Or whether you want a three-some? Have you ever had anyone (someone you’ve never met before) tell you that you’ve just not met the right [insert opposite sex here] yet? As a lesbian, it seems like everyone wants to stick their noses into what happens in my bedroom. Something that doesn’t happen when you’re in a heterosexual relationship.
- “The Phase” – After over 11 years together, it is still assumed by some people that my relationship with my wife is a ‘phase’, and that we will each find a man eventually when we grow tired of each other. This is something never questioned in a heterosexual relationship. The length and strength of my relationship with my wife means nothing to people who just can’t get past the myth that gay and lesbian relationships don’t last as long as heterosexual ones. We’re certainly going to prove that myth wrong.
- Being ogled in public – When was the last time you were ogled in public for holding your wife’s/husband’s hand? Or showing any type of affection at all? While it happens less and less, it still happens. It happens when my wife and I are out for dinner and I lean in a little too close. It happens when I take her hand as we walk down the street or cross a road. It happens when we’re sitting on a park bench and I lay my head on her shoulder. Again, they don’t bother me anymore, but sometimes, when I can feel someone’s eyes on us, it feels like we’re living in a fish bowl. There’s also the whispered comments from people nearby who think you can’t hear what they’re saying, trying to work out (a) if I’m a man or a woman (probably because of my preference to dress in jeans and t-shirts and keep my hair cut short) and (b) whether we are, in fact, lesbians. It’s no longer all that uncomfortable for me, but my wife sometimes picks up on it. We’ve even had times where we’ve dropped each others’ hands and walked just a little further apart because we’ve felt uncomfortable in public. Bet you never have to do that with your wife or husband huh? And finally,
- Constantly deciding whether you should ‘come out’ – Being a lesbian (or gay), I find myself constantly making judgement calls on the people I meet, and whether I can refer to my wife as my wife or not. I am proud of our relationship, but sometimes, it’s far easier to just not say anything. Ever gone to work on Monday morning and been asked what you did over the weekend? You reply with something about taking your wife and kids to the beach, or your husband taking you out for a quiet dinner to celebrate your anniversary. For some of us gays and lesbians, especially those who aren’t out at work, that simple conversation is one fraught with anxiety. Even just being asked, when meeting someone new, if you have a husband (if you’re a woman) or wife (if you’re a man) isn’t a simple answer for some of us. We don’t just come out of the closet once. We do it all the time. And it can be exhausting.
So yes, my relationship with my wife does differ to that of someone in a heterosexual relationship. I do hope though, that one day it doesn’t matter.
And just to finish on a happier note, here’s one reason my relationship is the same as heterosexual relationships.
I love my wife immensely. For me, she’s it. The One. We make each other laugh; we comfort each other when we cry. We share the same morals and values and we’re travelling in the same direction in life. She has my back and I have hers. We support each other in our chosen careers and we share the housework (although my wife would argue it’s a 70/30 split with her doing the most). We have our differences, sure. But the reason why being able to marry my wife is so important to me is because I want everyone to know that she is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, to the exclusion of all others. I want the automatic legal kinship that is afforded to married couples.
And we had so much fun at our Big C commitment ceremony 6 years ago, that we’d love to do it all again. Only this time, it’ll be for real.